x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

New handbook has message for Filipinos

A new handbook for Filipinos teaches how to respect the UAE's laws and customs.

The UAE's laws and customs can be a minefield to navigate - but for Filipinos, help is at hand.

A group of Filipino community leaders have produced a simple guide for their countrymen on the dos and don'ts of living in the UAE.

About 5,000 copies of the 50-page, passport-sized handbook will be released this Friday in Dubai.

It is mainly written in English, with a foreword by Analiza Magno Concepcion in Tagalog. Ms Concepcion is the chairwoman of Filcom, an umbrella organisation of 63 community groups in Dubai and the Northern Emirates.

She moved to Dubai in 1989 and said that while the book was aimed at newcomers, it also served to remind Filipinos already established in the UAE how to behave in a way that respects the country's laws and customs.

The launch will be the highlight of a community service expo on Friday at Al Shabab Sports Club in Dubai, where thousands of Filipinos are expected to celebrate the 113th anniversary of their homeland's independence.

"Many Filipinos are in jail because they're not aware of the UAE's laws," Ms Concepcion said. "For instance, wearing indecent or revealing clothing and public display of affection are not allowed here."

While swimsuits and bikinis are a common sight in Dubai, the book advises residents to dress conservatively in public.

"You can't walk home in your bikini," it says. "It is not making some sort of statement about how fashionable you are or what a rebel you feel - it is mortally offending public decency and punishable officially with imprisonment, and unofficially with abuse."

Dancing in public is considered indecent and provocative, and can be very dangerous for women, the book warns: "You can dance in your own home behind your curtains and you can dance at official clubs. Anything else is not acceptable."

Joel Nedamo, a civil engineer who works as a safety adviser at the Dubai World Trade Centre, said ignorance of the law was no excuse and could land people behind bars.

"You can't just say 'I don't know' or 'Nobody told me'," Mr Nedamo said. "You'll put yourself at risk and it can cost you your job."

Mr Nedamo provided some useful tips on safety at home and on the road, and ways to prevent cases of heat-related illnesses during the summer.

The booklet contains emergency contact numbers for the police, civil defence, ambulance, traffic police, and the electricity and water department.

The phone numbers and e-mail addresses of the Philippine consulate, the labour office and the Philippine embassy are also listed on the handbook.

A Filcom hotline, 055 191 5636, will also be launched on Friday. It will offer advice to Filipinos on labour, police, medical and other problems.

"Ninety per cent of the Filipinos in Dubai are professionals," said Letty Samuel, the managing director of The Philippine School in Dubai, who is also involved in the project.

"But we need to be reminded about the country's laws and this includes being aware about the consequences for defaulting on loan payments and credit-card debts."

rruiz@thenational.ae